No one has ever grown up without at least once enduring a lengthy sermon on the subject of whisky. These little, or lengthy sermons have shaped your view of the world of whisky whether they are delivered by your whisky sipping father catching you unawares one night; a semi-drunk and overly enthusiastic uncle at a family gathering, or even an older friend who is skilled at dispensing crash courses every time he has had a few.
These eclectic sermons may include just about anything and everything whisky related, but the one indispensable piece of information will always involve Scotch whisky.
“What brand must you always drink, and the one you should avoid at all costs; how you should drink it and how you must never contaminate it by mixing it with anything.” With extra emphasis on anything. Sounds familiar?
If you have always wondered why your whisky mentor always forbade you when it came to mixing Scotch whisky with anything, and moved heaven and earth to get you to drink it neat, look no further for an explanation. In order to understand why you must drink Scotch whisky to truly honour, and appreciate it, we must first understand the drink first.
What is Scotch Whisky?
All Scotch is whisky, but not every whisky is Scotch! Don’t worry there is also a simpler way: Every form of whisky distilled in the country of Scotland is a Scotch whisky, and no other place on Earth can call their whisky Scotch. See the exclusivity?
Now, there are five different types of Scotch whiskies which are:
A blend of two or more single malt Scotch whiskies is known as a blended malt, and there is no presence of grain whisky in the blend. These malt whiskies may or may not come from different distilleries. Popular blended malt Scotch expressions are Monkey Shoulder, Chivas Regal Ultis, and the Johnnie Walker Green Label.
3. Single Grain Scotch Whisky
Whisky distilled predominantly from unmalted barley and other types of grains is known as single grain Scotch. It does not imply that only one type of grain was used for the mash, rather implies the unmalted nature of the grain although some amount of malted barley is present as it is necessary for all Scotch whiskies to use some malted barley. Popular single grain Scotch brands are Invergordon, Cambus, and Cameronbridge.
A blend of two or more grain whiskies, blended grain Scotch is rare to find. Not many blended grain whisky brands exist today although Compass Box, and The Famous Grouse’s Snow Grouse are excellent examples of blended grain whisky.
These are all the different types of Scotch whisky, and the most excellent and must try brands a whisky loving beginner must know. Experiences shall shape your future choices and preferences but for the subject at hand, let’s explore why it is a truly terrible idea to mix Scotch whisky with mixers such as cola, seltzer, ginger ale, or dare we even say, ICE. We’ll get to that later.
A Snifter glass lets the aromas from the whisky to rise and locks them in with a narrow opening, allowing you to take in all the aromas from the whisky.
No matter the kind of Scotch whisky you have at hand, single malt, or blended, the most valuable tip you must pay heed to, is choosing your whisky glass with precision. You always want either a Snifter glass, bulging at the bottom and narrowing towards the top; or at most, a ‘Rocks’ glass, which is a usual lowball glass that bars and watering holes usually serve whisky in.
A Rocks Glass.
Why is it important to not brutalize Scotch whisky with mixers?
Whisky distilled before it goes into the barrel for maturation, and before being bottled, is nearly three times more potent with an alcohol strength as high as 90% ABV. Whisky makers add water to comply with the Scotch whisky regulations and bring the alcohol strength down to a palatable 40% ABV.
This means, there is no discernible need to dilute your whisky further. If you do, it causes your beloved whisky to lose its aromas and flavours that the Master Distillers, and Master Blenders have worked so hard to produce. All those years spent enclosed within a barrel, locked away in a warehouse have been rendered fruitless if you brutalize your Scotch whisky with cola, seltzer, ginger ale, or even soda for that matter.
A Scotch whisky greatly reflects the characteristics of the region it was distilled in just as much as it reflects the nature of its ingredients. American Bourbon whisky, made using a predominantly corn based mash, are sweeter as compared to other types of whisky.
When it comes to Scotch whisky, your drink may come from five different regions of Scotland, and these regions play a huge role towards determining the flavours, aromas and texture of your whisky.
Speyside single malts generally have an appealing identity with sweet, fruity flavours and floral aromas, whereas Islay made whiskies are an acquired taste due to their medicinal, iodine rich, and pungent flavours, and aromas.
Adding a mixer to your Scotch whisky, would render the very individuality of your whisky immaterial and amounting to nothing. All it would administer is a buzz, and the tossing and turning of a true whisky lover in their grave.
In order to fully appreciate and understand your whisky, take in the inviting aromas and scents, sip and roll it on your tongue, swallow and sense the residual feeling left behind, it is paramount to never, ever mix your Scotch whisky with any over-the-counter beverages.
Why is Ice a bad idea too?
Ice acts as a numbing agent for your tongue, rendering you incapable of tasting the whisky. Not to mention after it melts, and dissolves into the drink, it dilutes it.
Another reason why you must consider not adding ice to your glass of whisky is that when cold, the flavours and aromas of the whisky become locked in. For the very expensive bottle of Scotch whisky you covet and treasure, there would be nothing more disastrous than not drinking it the way it is intended to be.
How must you drink Scotch Whisky?
Ideally? Neat but what if we propose an even better way to improve the entire experience, unlocking an array of hidden flavours that your whisky carries. It’s Water. But only a few drops of it.
Adding a couple of drops of room temperature water to your whisky sets into motion a chemical reaction that unlocks enables you to really get to know your whisky, down to its very bones. It is the presence of a phenol in your whisky known as Guaiacol which stays nestled within the whisky when the alcohol contents the drink are at 40% ABV.
Although when you add a few drops of nature’s second most precious liquid, after whisky of course, the Guaiacol molecules move upwards, towards the surface of the liquid, allowing you to really inhale the whisky. Guaiacol is also what gives the whisky its signature smoky scent, and taste which is the true nature of the drink.
Although if you are really fond of mixers and cocktails..
Many different regions of the world distil more suitable whiskeys that blend marvellously with mixers to create a smooth, flavourful and mouth-watering drink. It is true that the way you drink your whisky is entirely your prerogative, but if a more suited suggestion is something you are looking for, Irish whiskey and American Bourbon are two well deserving alternatives.